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World J Surg. 2014 Jul;38(7):1568-73. doi: 10.1007/s00268-014-2584-1.

History and evolution of surgical ethics: John Gregory to the twenty-first century.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Chicago Medicine, 5841 S. Maryland Avenue, MC 6040, Chicago, IL, USA, jukes.namm@uchospitals.edu.

Abstract

As surgery grew to become a respected medical profession in the eighteenth century, medical ethics emerged as a response to the growing need to protect patients and maintain the public's trust in physicians. The early influences of John Gregory and Thomas Percival were instrumental in the formulation of patient-centered medical ethics. In the late nineteenth century, the modern surgical advances of anesthesia and antisepsis created the need for a discipline of ethics specific to surgery in order to confront new and evolving ethical issues. One of the founding initiatives of the American College of Surgeons in 1913 was to eliminate unethical practices such as fee-splitting and itinerant surgery. As surgery continued to advance in the era of solid organ transplantation and minimally invasive surgery in the latter half of the twentieth century, surgical innovation and conflict of interest have emerged as important ethical issues moving forward into the twenty-first century. Surgical ethics has evolved into a distinct branch of medical ethics, and the core of surgical ethics is the surgeon-patient relationship and the surgeon's responsibility to advance and protect the well-being of the patient.

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